On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a 1994 law that protects and provides resources for victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence. The bill passed 244-172. While 29 Republicans joined 215 Democrats in voting for the bill, all the “no” votes came from Republicans.
As usual, leftists crowed about the vote, suggesting that Republicans actually support sexual violence. In reality, this version of the law contained two measures that have less to do with combatting sexual violence and more to do with restricting gun rights and supporting transgender identity. These two measures more than justified Republican opposition — in fact, they should have been too radioactive for some Democrats.
Republicans opposed VAWA, cue the outrage!
“172 House Republicans voted AGAINST renewal of the Violence Against Women Act. 172 misogamists need to be removed from office,” journalist David Leavitt tweeted. (I think he meant “misogynists.”)
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Many commentators linked VAWA to the horrific shootings that killed eight women in the Atlanta area on Tuesday.
“Less than 24 hours after one of the worst attacks against women in recent memory, 172 Republicans voted AGAINST the Violence Against Women Act. This critical Act was one of the most bipartisan bills in American history—but the GOP has now decided they just don’t care about women,” Qasim Rashid, a lawyer and unsuccessful 2020 Democratic candidate for Congress in Virginia, declared on Twitter.
“One day after 8 people were killed due to hatred of Asian women, how dare 172 Republicans vote against the Violence Against Women Act?” asked Padma Lakshmi, host of the Bravo show Top Chef, in high dudgeon. “The most contentious part of the act? Preventing people convicted of domestic abuse or stalking from purchasing a firearm.”
So have Republicans proven that they don’t care about women? Hardly.
As Lakshmi noted, VAWA contains a new provision that would restrict Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Current federal law bars anyone convicted of any felony or convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from possessing a firearm. The bill would expand that ban, barring any individual with a misdemeanor conviction of sexual assault or stalking from purchasing a gun. The bill also seeks to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” to expand the definition of domestic violence to include dating partners.
In 2019, the National Rifle Association (NRA) opposed the VAWA reauthorization for the first time, due to new provisions that limit gun rights.
“The NRA did not score the legislation until last Congress because it never impacted Second Amendment rights,” Jason Ouimet, executive director of the NRA’s lobbying arm, said at the time. “However, Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and anti-gun lawmakers chose to insert gun control provisions into this bill in 2019 to pit pro-gun lawmakers against it so that they can falsely and maliciously claim these lawmakers don’t care about women.”
“This legislation makes it clear that Democrats consider gun ownership a second-class right,” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) told NPR.
The 2021 version of VAWA also includes provisions enforcing transgender identity in women’s shelter’s and in prisons. The bill calls for prison regulations based on the idea that “a transgender prisoner’s sex is determined according to the sex with which they identify,” rather than his or her biological sex.
In other words, this legislation would force prisons and shelters to put biological men who claim to identify as women in women’s prisons and women’s shelters with vulnerable women.
Just last week, after the Washington Correctional Center for Women began housing prisoners according to gender identity, six biological men transferred to the women’s prison, and one of them allegedly raped a female inmate upon arrival.
The Violence Against Women Act should not enable violence against women by allowing manipulative biological men to falsely claim a female gender identity in order to sexually assault women in vulnerable settings like shelters and prisons. The very idea that VAWA could enable such heinous abuses is chilling.
If the same version of the Violence Against Women Act that originally passed in 1994 came before the House of Representatives, every single Republican would likely vote for it. Even the 2013 reauthorization — which passed after a tense congressional battle — would garner more Republican votes.
Yet the current VAWA arguably constitutes political blackmail. Democrats have told Republicans they must weaken gun rights and support transgender identity or they support violence against women. That’s perverse, but it’s the current state of American politics.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.